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The Strathfarrar Four: how NOT to compleat :)

The Strathfarrar Four: how NOT to compleat :)


Postby BlackPanther » Thu May 31, 2018 6:57 pm

Route description: Glen Strathfarrar Munros circuit

Munros included on this walk: Carn nan Gobhar (Strathfarrar), Sgurr a'Choire Ghlais, Sgurr Fhuar-thuill, Sgurr na Ruaidhe

Date walked: 26/05/2018

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 52.4 km

Ascent: 1900m

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Ahh, writing this is going to be fun. I always said, when asked about my choice of last Munro, that I wanted to compleat on the nearest hills to Beauly. Technically, Ben Wyvis is the closest one as crow flies (22km), but the Strathfarrar ridge comes second (23km). We had visited Wyvis multiple times, whereas the latter group is awkward to get to because of the locked gate in Struy. So this was supposed to be our compleating circuit, but somehow, we had a change of hearts and decided to do them now. It means we are now forced to think about a new final Munro. There are a few options considered at the moment, I will come to that later.

As for the S4 ridge, we had a dilemma. There was the option of climbing them from the north (Strathconon) but it's a big day an I wasn't sure my knees would cope with it. The standard route from Strathfarrar was still long with over 1500m of ascent, but Kevin suggested taking bikes and cycling from Struy. This way, we wouldn't have to be worried about the gate closures and we could enjoy the ridge at our own pace. I instantly liked the idea. We had cycled up and down this glen before and I knew it was tarmac all the way. For a rubbish biker like me, this was important. I don't mind cycling as long as the ground is decent. I hate bumpy tracks :lol: :lol: This approach to Strathfarrar four would also be a good test for us, before attempting a few other bike/hike combos we have in mind this summer.

Now to the statistics. The numbers shown in the report summary are for all distance and ascent, biking + walking. For the walking part only, it was 1605m of ascent and 21km walking. We were lucky to catch a lift back from the opposite end of the walk (Inchvuilt) to our bikes, which saved us probably an hour to 90min.

Track_GLEN STRATHFARRER.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Because it's so close to home, we didn't need to get up in the bl**dy middle of the night. Having prepared the bikes the evening before, we left home after a good night sleep and arrived in Struy at 8:15am, while the gates open at 9am.
Getting ready for the cycling part:
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It was a very misty morning, with dense, milky fog glued to the hills around the glen. The clag must have been down to 200m, as we slowly worked the pedals up the road. Kevin waited for me patiently, every time I stopped to walk the bike over a grid - I know it's peculiar, I'm scared to death of cycling over cattle grids :lol: Maybe it has something to do with a bike accident I had many years ago. I got away with just cuts and bruises then but maybe my confidence for cycling was knocked out of me that day and never returned... I don't know. It must be a funny view for other road users but I don't care :wink:
After roughly an hour, we reached the start of the walk proper. A few cars with walkers arrived as well and people jumped out to prepare for the traverse. It was going to be a busy ridge today!
Milky way up:
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A good place to chain the bikes:
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Ready for adventures:
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As we left, another group of walkers was just behind us, but we were moving at similar pace and we soon lost the sight of them in the clag. Visibility was down to 20m perhaps, but we hoped it was just the morning mist and we would eventually climb out of it!
Allt Coire Mhuillidh in the mist:
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Because we could see zilch, we didn't really know where we were going, two blind mice in the fog :lol: :lol: OK, jokes aside, we followed the track, which was rather wet and squelchy. We made a small mistake of not double-checking with our GPS, when the track crossed the Allt Coire Mhuillidh at some point. We just assumed this was the shortest route up, forded the stream and continued on the track which was still heading uphill at that point. After about 1km though, still in dense fog, we checked our bearings and discovered that we have veered too far west from the main route, and if we continued ascending due north from where we were, we'd climb straight up to Carn nan Gobhar, the second Munro of the ridge, rather than Sgurr na Ruaidhe, the first one. This error was not a tragedy as we spotted it early enough, we just had to turn east and cross the upper rim of Coire Mhuillidh to join the main route.
Easy said but not so easy done. Coire Mhuillidh is full of nasty peat hags, we lost time meandering amongst them, but at least it was a good navigation test! We crossed back over Allt Coire Mhuillidh and eventually turned NE up the right slope.
We heard voices in the mist and a moment later we bumped into the other group that left the car park just behind us. They said they made the same mistake, got confused in the mist and struggled to get out of the corrie. :lol: But now we were all climbing the right mountain, at least we assumed we were as we still couldn't see a thing :lol:
But eventually, as we gained height, we saw the first breaks in the cloud and then - bang! - we found ourselves above the clag and walking in glorious sunshine:
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The final 200m of ascent to Sgurr na Ruaidhe was a delight. We kept stopping to turn back and admire the superb cloud inversion, with mountain peaks emerging from the dense fog sitting in the glens. After a decade of scampering over Scottish hills, I have seen inversion many times but every time is feels special. It's like a new world is being born out of the pure whiteness :D
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Sgurr a'Choire Ghlais:
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The distant ridge of Mulardoch Munros, I think:
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Sgorr na Diollaid:
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The group of walkers we met in the mist following us to the summit of the first Munro:
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More cloud inversion, looking south:
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Panther smiling near the summit of Sgurr na Ruaidhe:
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The summit cairn in sight!
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Munro no. 225 for me, 68 for wee Lucy:
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We spent some time on the summit, enjoying the views, especially the cloud inversion. It was not complete as the cloud has already burned off to the west of the mountain, but I couldn't resist playing with my camera for more panoramics:
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The second Munro,Carn nan Gobhar, can be easily reached from here by traversing over Bealach nam Botaichean, with around 200m of re-ascent, all on nice, grassy ground, there is an obvious path most of the way:
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...but before we left, I had to record more cloud inversions :lol: :lol:
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Up Carn nan Gobhar, the final few meters to the summit are bouldery:
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Lucy was first to claim the summit cairn for her 69th Munro! The ridge continues behind her...
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By now, most of the clag has burned off, small patches remaining over Glen Strathconon. Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard to the right:
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The Beauly trio on the summit:
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We didn't waste too much time on the second Munro. With the highest of the tops still looming above us, we decided to continue the walk straight away:
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Walking along the ridge, I sparked up a conversation about our final Munro. It's only 50 odd hills away so we should really consider the subject. Plan A has been abandoned - it won't be the Strathfarrar circuit now, that's for sure. But which one?
Kevin said, it will probably be some boring outlier down south :roll:
I answered, I was desperate to bag all boring outliers BEFORE we get to the final one!
He suggested it might be something on Skye 8)
I said It could be as long as it's not too tricky, because I want to have a toast on the summit and it wouldn't be safe to get drunk on the summit of Am Basteir :shock:
To be continued...
Looking back to Carn nan Gobhar from the ascent to Sgurr a'Choire Ghlais:
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Another 200m of steep re-ascent brought us to the summit of the third Munro, which has a trig point and two cairns, the southernmost one is the true summit (at lest according to our GPS):
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We met more people on this summit, some we caught up with and others who caught up with us :lol: :lol: The inversion was gone for good now, but the views from the middle Munro are amazing:
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The southern ridge leading down to Strathfarrar:
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Mullardoch Munros on the horizon:
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Lucy on the cairn, her 70th Munro claimed!
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It was hot now and Kevin decided to unzip his trouser legs for some fresh air:
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The ridge continues over a top called Creag Ghorm a'Bhealaich to the final Munro:
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Kevin was still taking photos when I urged him to follow me to the next top!
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As we descended to the next bealach, we returned to our earlier discussion about the final Munro...
I wondered if it could be Lurg Mor and Cheesecake as they are awkward to reach...
Kevin said no way they will be done ASAP - as soon as the new hydro scheme is finished...
I then wondered if we could leave the Cruachan Horseshoe as a grand finale...
Kevin didn't mind this, perhaps that was an idea.
The distant views were a bit hazy. I remember climbing the neighbouring Corbett, Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard, in early spring, on a clear and crispy day, when we saw fantastic views north to Torridon and Fannichs. Today, we could hardly make out the distant shapes in the hazy air:
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Thankfully, there was enough to admire on the ridge we walked :D
Panther bewildered:
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There is an obvious path up Creag Ghorm a'Bhealaich, with only one very short section of boulders, which can hardly be called a pocked of scramble:
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Higher up, it's straightforward marching along the edge of the corrie:
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The other groups bypassed the top, but we took a detour to the summit, which has impressive views down to Coire na Sguile and back east to Sgurr a'Choire Ghlais:
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From the intermediate top, it's an easy walk with little drop to the summit of the final Munro, Sgurr Fhuar-thuill. my 228th Munro, no. 71 for Lucy...
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Below us, at the foot of the vertical cliffs, lies Loch an Fhuar Thuill Mhoir:
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...and number 232 for Kevin who is still 4 Munros in front of me! I'm desperate to catch up with him, as I have already caught him up on Corbetts and Grahams, but this will require climbing more hills down south (Ben Lui, Cruach Ardain etc).
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As this was the last top on our way, we decided to sit here a bit longer, rest and stretch legs :D Views were still tremendous so I didn't shy from snapping more panoramas:
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View south to Toll a'Mhuic, our descent route:
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Sgurr na Fearstaig:
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There is a good stalkers path leading down into the corrie:
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An outlying top, Sgurr na Muice and Loch Toll a'Mhuic:
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Looking back up to the path contouring the corrie:
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The descent follows the path which becomes a track lower down. The afternoon sun was nipping my skin so I stopped to re-apply the sticky sunscreen, while Kevin photographed the nearby waterfall:
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The track follows Allt Toll a'Mhuic all the way back to the road:
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As we descended, we continued our conversation about our final Munro...
There were names and suggestion thrown into the air, but we didn't reach a satisfactory conclusion. Carn Mor Dearg is a possibility, but it's likely we will bag it this year if weather stays sunny. Maybe Sgurr Mor (the Loch Quoich one) as it's a grand walk from Arkaig side. Or why not Ben Alder, celebrate with an overnighter or a bike/hike combo?
The dilemma has not been solved but as we are not very fast baggers we have another 3 or 4 years left to take the final decision :lol: :lol: :lol:
We returned to the road and started the long march back to the bikes. Our knees were aching a little bit but weather was great and we still had water left (surprisingly, we didn't run out of fluids on the ridge) so we hoped to be back by our cycles in 90min or even less...
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...but by a stroke of luck, a car stopped next to us and a nice lady offered us a lift, God bless her. We met her earlier on the ridge :D She had left her car at the top of the road in the morning and cycled back to the eastern starting point. A clever idea if you want to be quick and get out of the glen before the gates close! So we managed to save some time but even if we had to walk back to the bikes, we should still have finished before sunset. The final cycle back was then easy (apart from the cattle grid crossings... GRRRR! :evil: ).

On the way back home, we discussed... no, not our final Munro!!!! We talked about what to do the following day. Forecast was excellent and we had bikes ready and strapped to the car, so I suggested another bike/hike excursion. We were then sitting on 99 Grahams, so climbing our 100th one on a sunny day was a welcome idea. My next TR will tell the story of this adventure :D
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BlackPanther
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Re: The Strathfarrar Four: how NOT to compleat :)

Postby malky_c » Thu May 31, 2018 10:46 pm

Nice inversion :D . Interesting to see how much snow has disappeared from those hills in the 3 weeks since I was up there. I suppose it's not really a surprise given the temperatures though.

If you're up there again sometime, I ended up taking a route which cut out a lot of road walking and time to return me to my start point. It's a bit rougher than the normal way, but with your extensive Graham experience, I doubt you'd find it too hard going :wink: .

I'm sure at the rate you're going just now, your last Munro will be less than 4 years away :D
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Re: The Strathfarrar Four: how NOT to compleat :)

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Jun 01, 2018 6:15 pm

malky_c wrote:Nice inversion :D . Interesting to see how much snow has disappeared from those hills in the 3 weeks since I was up there. I suppose it's not really a surprise given the temperatures though.

If you're up there again sometime, I ended up taking a route which cut out a lot of road walking and time to return me to my start point. It's a bit rougher than the normal way, but with your extensive Graham experience, I doubt you'd find it too hard going :wink: .

I'm sure at the rate you're going just now, your last Munro will be less than 4 years away :D


It's all melted everywhere by now... Good for us, we are eyeing the CMD arete this week and it's safer without melting snow.

We are not in a hurry to compleat so it will probably take a few years. Most of our unclimbed Munros are either down south or very long walks so we will have to spread them carefully over several summers. I'd love to climb the Arkaig M's and Ben Alder group this year but it all depends on Kevin's mood :lol: :lol:
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BlackPanther
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Re: The Strathfarrar Four: how NOT to compleat :)

Postby Coop » Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:53 pm

Great report, cheers, and looks like you had a great day after a dreich start.
Hopefully get on these 4 thix year - maybe
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Re: The Strathfarrar Four: how NOT to compleat :)

Postby Phil the Hill » Tue Jun 05, 2018 1:01 pm

You're so lucky having these as your local hills. I'm not surprised you cracked and did them early.

I'm trying to save Sgurr na Ciche for my compleation, as it's the best one I have left, but it's always possible I will crack and do it earlier. Having just done another 7 Munros last week and only managing to get up to Scotland about once a year, I think I'll probably take another 4 years to compleat too. Maybe I'll see you for a compleation party on the Loch Arkaig Munros in 2022?!
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Re: The Strathfarrar Four: how NOT to compleat :)

Postby BlackPanther » Mon Jun 11, 2018 10:03 am

Phil the Hill wrote:m trying to save Sgurr na Ciche for my compleation, as it's the best one I have left, but it's always possible I will crack and do it earlier. Having just done another 7 Munros last week and only managing to get up to Scotland about once a year, I think I'll probably take another 4 years to compleat too. Maybe I'll see you for a compleation party on the Loch Arkaig Munros in 2022?!


We have just returned from a crazy week of hill bagging, spent a few days in the area of Loch Arkaig. We bagged Sgurr Mor and Sgurr an Fhuarain, had a good look at Sgurr na Ciche ridge, it would be a superb way to compleat but... We might crack and do them this year if weather keeps smiling!

Our problem is, we spend too much time bagging lower hills. During last week holidays we climbed 6 new Corbetts and 2 Grahams, enjoyed them all. had we concentrated on Munros only, we would have compleated probably 5 years ago :lol: :lol:
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